The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has suspended the Green Nod given to the 660 MW Ennore Thermal Power Station (ETPS) expansion project for six months, the reason being lack of mandatory public hearing.
According to The Times of India, NGT has suspended the Union Environment Ministry’s order exempting Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) from conducting a public hearing and directed authorities to file a fresh environment impact assessment (EIC) report after conducting a public hearing.
The Bench permitted Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) to continue with the construction activity but has been restricted from operating the plant until the public hearing is conducted, and the environment clearance has been revisited.
According to a report by The New Indian Express, the tribunal has asked the government to hold a public hearing within the next two months and incorporate additional conditions in the environmental clearance for TANGEDCO to comply.
The green bench, which consisted of judicial member Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member K Satyagopal, said, “The entire exercise will have to be completed by the Union Environment Ministry within six months.”
Ennore resident RL Srinivasan filed a petition and sought cancellation of environment clearance. However, the NGT said that it is unnecessary to completely cancel the environmental clearance as this is a “curable procedural irregularity and not an inherent illegality violating the entire process”.
TANGEDCO, during the hearing, said that they had submitted the environmental impact assessment report on its website instead of uploading it on the Tamil Nadu pollution control board’s website that conducts public hearings.
The tribunal responded, saying, “There is no possibility for the public to know about the contents of the EIA report to raise their objection before the authorities and there was no possibility for the Expert Appraisal Committee to get the views from the public on this aspect.”
The NGT asserted that it is important to inform the public about the project which is likely to affect them. All the repercussions and the circumstances encircling it must be made known.
Hence, opportunity must be given for public consultation before making decisions on the EC.
Although the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of thermal power projects had turned down the ETPS expansion project’s exemption from the public hearing, the ministry ignored EAC observation and granted exemption, reported the Time of India.